Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to Lose a Fan Base in Three Easy Steps

1. Build your team to contend in the East, then get swept in consecutive years in the second round of the playoffs, the latter sweep by record margins.

2. After having received definitive proof that your team is not in the top tier in the conference, sign a good player to superstar money, thus ensuring that you will keep trotting out the same team that was just humiliated in the playoffs.  For good measure, fire your coach and appoint his nice guy lieutenant, on whom the team will quit within a matter of months.

3. To ensure that your fans have the message that ownership has fully committed to a fatally flawed core, lose 15 of your first 36 home games in the following season.  Make sure to include blowout losses in all of the marquee games to guarantee that your fans get the message.  You know, losses like 114-81 to the Bulls, 106-85 to the Heat, and 101-87 to the Lakers.  Throw in a 100-59 loss to the Hornets just to remind your fans that you had the chance to draft Chris Paul and didn’t take it.

I started this blog in no small part because I was going to a fair number of Hawks games and I wanted to write about them.  In other words, I’m part of the Hawks’ target audience, so if they are losing me, they have major issues.  I’ve been wondering whether I’m unique in my place in life (busy at the office, wife and two small kids, strange attachment to a European soccer team that provides great emotional fulfillment), so I’ve been asking various friends who like basketball if they have the same feelings about the team.  To a man, everyone has echoed the same conclusion: the combination of the repudiating loss to the Magic, the re-signing of Joe Johnson, the hiring of Larry Drew, and the tepid performance this year (especially at home) has killed our interest in the team.  I’d like to be writing more about the Hawks to be a little truer to the title of this blog, which sits on top of the page taunting me as I write thousands of words about Barca, Michigan, and other sports topics that are not strictly Atlanta-themed.  I just can’t work up the interest.

I was reminded of the Hawks when I read Christopher Clark’s great piece at SB Nation defending Lakers fans against the taunt that they are bandwagon jumpers of the worst variety:

The Lakers have the most fair weather fans in all of sports.  Why?  Because Los Angeles is one of the entertainment capitals of the world.  If the Lakers suck, fans have a myriad of other fine options to more suitably distract themselves with.  As such, when the Lakers struggle, support for the team dwindles dramatically.  That couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that the team has missed the playoffs only five times in the 62 year history of the franchise, could it?

The Lakers have reached the NBA finals a staggering 31 times, averaging a Finals trip every two years.  They've won roughly 25 percent of the league's championships.  There are a whole bunch of reasons why, and a fair number of inherent advantages that allow it to be so, but a Laker fanbase which has made it clear that winning is important has to be part of the equation.  Jerry Buss is keenly aware of the price he will pay if the Lakers ever have a prolonged period of poor play, and it drives him to ensure the team reloads quickly.

So, the next time you accuse someone of being a fair weather fan, take a second to think about exactly what that means.  The Los Angeles Lakers might be the most fair weather fanbase on the planet, and I for one am proud to be one of them.  I don't suffer bad food, bad dish soap, or bad movies, so why in the hell would I suffer bad basketball?

Atlanta isn’t on LA’s level in terms of entertainment options, but like LA, it a major city with good weather and a host of options for one’s entertainment dollar.  Just like LA, fans in this city will not pay for a bad product.  Sadly, this incentive for ownership to put a quality product on the court has not led the Hawks to anything close to the Lakers’ history of success.  Still, Clark’s central point applies to the Hawks just as much as it applies to the Lakers.  Fans shouldn’t reward a team that has had a 12-month period like this Hawks franchise has had.


Jerry Hinnen said...

It's not just you, not by a mile. I don't live anywhere near Atlanta but last year I signed up for NBA League Pass to follow the Hawks and watched, I would guess, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 games. And up until the playoffs, I enjoyed most of them.

So I went ahead and signed up for the League Pass early renewal or some such this year w/ DirecTV. And I watched the Hawks a couple of times in the first couple weeks of the season.

I haven't watched more than a five-minute spell since. Since the Drew hiring and the Johnson signing, there's just no reason at all to be excited about this team. None.

Anonymous said...

You mean when other people (opposing fans, national columnists, etc) call us (Atlanta fans) fair weather fans, it just means we have discerning taste?


Seriously though, the Hawks wasted a lot of good will that that Boston 7 game series generated.

james said...

it's sad. i love the hawks. the only atlanta team i have a major love for; a result of having defacto free season tickets for years.

after moving to tampa i dropped big money on nba league pass so i could watch them this year.

nothing is changing until ownership changes. this ownership group will continue to try to make the playoffs while staying as close to the luxury tax without going over as possible.

assuming that is their goal, they have been remarkably successful and their off-season moves make great sense.

building a contender and putting fans in the seats - not so much.

JasonC said...

You could always write more about the Braves.